A South Metro Human Services (SMHS) staff member was first introduced to Sam at Project Homeless Connect in 2010. Sam is a 40 year old male with a long history of alcoholism in his family. They met while Sam was eating lunch at the Project Homeless Connect event. He was obviously intoxicated, having difficulty speaking, and walking. They talked about the time he had spent in jail on the reservation in Northern Minnesota and how he had since been living under a bridge in east St. Paul.
Sam worked with the South Metro Human Services team member for about six months while he was staying under a bridge in St. Paul. During this time, he drank alcohol daily and would experience serious detox symptoms if he stopped drinking. SMHS staff would stop by and bring him food, blankets, sleeping bags, and other necessary items to keep him safe over the cold fall and early winter months. They were able to do this through the DHS grant funds. More importantly, during this time, Sam developed a trusting relationship with the staff member as they talked more and more about his long-term goals and how he felt about his drinking.
In December of 2010 Sam agreed to enter into chemical dependency (CD) treatment at Juel Fairbanks. He completed his treatment there and actively engaged in the program. After graduation, he immediately got a job working in an iron refinery and spends at least 50 hours a week there. South Metro Human Services worked with Sam in locating an affordable market rate apartment and securing a damage deposit. Sam and his significant other were able to move into a safe location near his work. Sam recently purchased a vehicle.
Sam faced a number of obstacles upon entering the case management program. Sam was living on the streets and his day-to-day life was completely focused on survival. His homelessness made it difficult for Sam to focus on recovery goals. Sam also faced a number of barriers towards accessing services and needed supports. Sam had no permanent address, so it was difficult to locate or contact him. Sam had little knowledge of the social service system, and therefore, had difficulty navigating it. Traditional case management services are not set up to service clients who were in Sam’s position. The CD grant allowed for the case management team to serve Sam in his environment, and provide homeless specific services. It also allowed for near immediate access to CD treatment when Sam was ready to begin working on his recovery.
The major lesson learned from Sam is that every person has the potential for recovery. Sam is a client that most programs would have written off. He had been using alcohol for years, drank daily with serious withdrawal symptoms, had been through more than five CD treatment programs, was reporting no desire for change, and was living underneath a bridge.
After working with Sam for a year and a half, he completely turned his life around. Sam is an example of what people can achieve when they have other people who they can connect with and help them with the resources that can assist them in bettering their quality of life.